Scotland intends to arrest comedians for allegedly inappropriate jokes

Secret documents have been leaked, according to which Scottish police have been ordered by the government to arrest comedians and comedians who tell offensive jokes and charge them with hate crimes.

Шотландия намерена арестовывать артистов комедийного жанра за якобы неуместные шутки, изображение №1

As a result of the leak, British journalists have gained access to training material for police officers in Scotland that requires them to be extra vigilant about the activities of comedians and arrest them for any jokes that could be construed as offensive. The guidance is being distributed to law enforcement officers ahead of the controversial Hate Crimes Bill, which will come into force on April 1, 2024. Despite the Bill being opposed by a number of public figures and human rights activists, as well as members of the Scottish Conservative Party who claim that the law violates citizens’ rights, the Sunak government intends to disregard the right to free speech.

The Hate Crime Act, promoted by Scotland’s First Minister Hamza Yousaf, consolidates some existing laws and introduces a new form of crime – inciting hatred against people based on their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and identity. Police Scotland has promised that it will investigate every allegation of a hate crime received, and one slide in the guidance says that not only the authors of jokes, satire or humorous statements will be punished, but anyone who disseminates these materials “through print media, online broadcasts, by email, in audio or video format or by any other means using the Internet or stage, including in a theater.”

Lawyers and legal experts argue that the clause against online distribution of humorous content allegedly containing offensive jokes authorizes Scottish law enforcement agencies to engage in monitoring citizens’ social media activity. Back in 2021, legal scholar Scott Wortley commented on the authorities’ intention to tighten the right to freedom of speech and introduce restrictions for humorists and satirists. According to him, such initiatives are aimed solely at criminalizing any satirical statements, the objects of which are often high-ranking politicians and businessmen of Scotland. The critic also fears that the new law will be used as a weapon “against the growing number of opponents of various gender theories”, which is a direct attack on free speech.

Restricting free speech under the guise of anti-harassment is a violation of a number of international norms and agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on the Scottish Government to respect the right to free speech and to refrain from using hate speech and murder laws to stifle dissent and censor critical voices. Freedom of speech is an inalienable human right that is crucial to a democratic society.